The New York Review of Each Others’ Books

The (loud booming voice) NEW YORK REVIEW (little squeaky voice) of books is one of my favorite magazines: its articles range from the boringly obscure to the profoundly insightful. For every Roger Shattuck there's a Garry Wills, for every "Gould/Lewontin: an Exchange" there's a Louis Menand stunner on the US's poltical culture. I've been reading through the 29 June issue, and although I don't think any of the articles in and of themselves are epsecially memorable, there were a fair number of details here and there that caught my eye.

James Traub has some very sharp things to say about the U.N. and its limits in a world less and less defined by national boundaries (see below for an extract). Ian Buruma, writing on Hollywood and its fascination with Tibet, had the following to say:

Those who felt discontented with their own complicated lives were consoled by the idea that in one isolated spot lived a people who still heled the key to happiness, peace, and spiritual salvation, who had, as it were, by some miracle of nature, been spared the expulsion from the Garden of Eden . . . .[Orville Schell, author of Virtual Tibet] expressed a fleeting sense of nostalgia for an earlier China, austere, remote, high-minded, inaccessible, xenophobic, poor. Mao's China, after all, was a kind of Tibet for would-be refugees from Western civilzation too.

And Robert Darnton, discussing the spread of rumor in pre-Revolutionary France, opens with this declaration:

The media loom so large in our vision of the future that we may fail to recognize their importance in the past, and the present can look like a time of transition, when the modes of communication are replacing the modes of production as the driving force of history. I would like to dispute this view, to argue that every age was an age of information, each in its own way, and that communication systems have always shaped events.